The Australian Classification Board’s recent refusal to classify Hotline Miami 2 has once again sparked the predictable outrage from the predictable pundits. One of the many ripples from this tift has been the debate over whether the depiction of rape in video games is acceptable on the basis of it being “just fantasy.” Sexual violence is a sensitive and nuanced topic that is being discussed with the delicateness of a demolition derby. I’ll preface this all by saying I have no idea what actually takes place in Hotline Miami 2. There has been a video released by the developers showing the scene in question, but the source brings up questions of validity. I also don’t claim to understand the geo-political structure of Australia (I hear they have a really cool Prime Minister). All that being said, I believe that limiting people’s access to media based upon its content should only be done under the most extreme circumstances.
I believe that it is important to give people safe means to an outlet for their emotions. Emotions occur as a result of subconscious thought outside of a person’s control. We are conditioned to react to certain stimuli; others we instinctively react to. A person’s “gut” is usually cited as the source of these reactions, but it happens somewhere in the subconscious mind. This is something that many people forget, myself included, when interacting with other people and this often makes it hard to see eye-to-eye. A single event can make a person laugh, cry or shriek. People are allowed to feel however they want about whatever they want. If you feel that any depiction of violence against woman in video games is disgusting, that’s fine. The same goes for someone who enjoys going postal in one of GTA’s strip clubs. The feelings both of those individuals experience are real and should not be belittled. Trying to condition other’s perception is a form of brainwashing that I am not comfortable with in the slightest. It’s that type of mentality that attempts to “pray the gay away.” I refuse to believe someone is evil because they enjoy something.
All bets are off when reaction becomes action though. People can – and do – fantasize about anything. However, when a person acts upon those fantasies in a way that harms other people, then it is something I can no longer condone. There are plenty of people with backwards views of homosexuality; that does not make them bad people. I don’t think those people are feigning their disapproval. But when such views lead them to deny others’ rights, it becomes a whole new ballgame. The same goes for sexual violence. The kink community has long been a very marginalized and persecuted group, but who is anyone to judge someone who happens to get aroused looking at someone’s feet or the feeling of latex? Even the more extreme fetishes involving sexual violence or rape fantasy are fine, in my opinion, as long as they stay in the realm of fantasy. Giving people an acceptable outlet to be who they are and enjoy what they enjoy should be the ultimate goal of humanity.
The retort I commonly see to the allowance of sexual violence in media is the fact that it desensitizes people to these acts and poisons overall culture, making such acts more “okay.” This is a definite possibility, but I feel that the opposite may in fact be true as well. The constant backlash against video games and violence in general has created a culture that feeds off the taboo of “violence,” something that I think we can all agree is not taboo in the slightest. But every time a Jack Thompson-type comes around it only becomes trendier to rebel against the “man.” The recent backlash against the half-assed looking isometric shooter Hatred has created a buzz around the game that I don’t think would have happened devoid of anyone saying it shouldn’t exist. If we let people enjoy what they want without shame, it would lead to more openness and acceptance.
“Rape games” are just fantasy. Movies are just fantasy. Books are just fantasy. They are “fantasy” because they are not real. They are constructs, stories, expressions. People consume media as an outlet, a way to feel the ways we do not or cannot on a constant basis. Who am I to judge those who enjoy whatever it is they enjoy? Similarly, who are you to?